Bach: Secular Cantatas Vol 10 [Bach Collegium Japan; Carolyn Sampson; Robin Blaze; Makoto Sakurado; Dominik Wörner; Massaki Suzuki] [Bis: BIS2351]
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The two cantatas recorded here conclude a project that the Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki started in 2004, in which Bachs secular cantatas formed the basis of numerous concerts and recordings. As the team completed the recording of the church cantatas in 2013, this means that BCJs performances of all of Bachs extant cantatas sacred and secular are now available on disc. Out of what was originally a much larger number only a little more than twenty secular cantatas have survived in performable condition. These nevertheless offer a welcome complement to our image of Bach the church musician. This final volume opens with the resplendent Angenehmes Wiederau from 1737. Bach employs a full complement of three trumpets and timpani as well as four vocal soloists. By contrast, Ich bin in mir vergnügt is an intimate work for solo soprano, flute, oboe and strings. Composed for an unknown occasion, the piece is a morality about the virtues of contentment, illustrated in music that gives Carolyn Sampson ample opportunity to shine.
Just when one thought it impossible to hear Bach sung any better than in Carolyn's recent performance of No 105, she brings an Arcadin coloration to Meine Seele sei vernügt , placing her among the finest exponents on record of this composer s peerlessly demanding soprano- writing. --Gramophone, October'18
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What a great way to end, though, with two "Cantatas of contentment"! The first movement of Angenehmes Wiederau, BWV 30a, is the most joyous celebration you could imagine. I commend to everyone reading this review John Eliot Gardner's book Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, and particularly in this context, Chapter 8 "Cantatas or Coffee?"
"To comprehend the social, liturgical and performance background for his public music-making in his Leipzig years, we need to explore these two parallel worlds of music, one sacred, one secular, and these two public meeting places, one over 500 years old, the other relatively new."
Certainly one could listen to Gardner's own recordings of the Bach Cantatas while reading this - they're very fine, of course - but I found every point Gardner made be better understand the music Suzuki has been guiding me through since the mid-1990s. I'll be living with this music for the rest of my life, and - who knows? - even beyond.
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